Share the Wealth

Roy Phillips

Unitarian Universalists are proud of themselves for doing nothing to seek converts to their faith. A person’s religion is a private inward thing, it is said, and we should in no way seek to influence another person to choose our way in religion. The underlying principle here is respect for the privacy and integrity of the other, and such respect is certainly an admirable quality.

The problem with this stand we take is found in that premise about religion being a private, inward, solitary phenomenon. I submit that this idea is out-of-date. Rather, systems-theory holds – correctly, I believe – that there is no such thing as utter personal isolation. Not even in our inwardness is any one of us an island. Our personal spiritual orientation arises in a social context. The question, then, is: Shall the Unitarian Universalist way in religion be offered as part of others’ social context? My answer is an unequivocal “Yes”.

I don’t intend to try to talk anybody into being a Unitarian Universalist. But I do want UU-talk going on in our community – a good deal of it, if possible. My reasoning for this is that on any given day there will be a number of people out there verging on a point of view very like the stance we Unitarian Universalists take. Left to themselves on their given day, they may well evaluate their dawning point of view as unacceptably eccentric and unworthy; or, worse perhaps, they may accept the mainline evaluation of their new outlook as sinful and may suppose there is something fundamentally amiss within them since they are coming to look at things this new way.

I believe the Unitarian Universalist prohibition against “proselytizing” and “seeking converts” is essentially irresponsible and cruel – noble-sounding though our respect for others’ privacy seems. It is irresponsible and cruel because it would have us turn our backs on those anonymous others out there who are now approaching like-mindedness with us – turn our backs and leave them to “twist slowly, slowly in the wind.” It would give us principled-sounding permission to ignore them and leave them to be spiritually browbeaten and abused by the right-wing religionists of the day.

There is no way this can be considered a good thing. There are those out there who need to know there is a way in religion such as ours, that it has a long and noble tradition and that it is represented in our day by a lively community of faithful adherents.

For this reason, these days I am talking a good deal about our way in religion and I hope you are doing that, too. You never know who out there this very moment is in need of hearing about what we have discovered in religion. I say: Don’t keep it for yourself and for a few others alone. Share the wealth!